Stony Brook President Maurie McInnis announced sweeping investments in research at the Campus Conversation on Accelerating Research, held online on Friday, October 15.
“Today is a start of a new and exciting chapter in Stony Brook history, because we’re going to be talking about making investments, hiring, looking ahead, and planning what comes next for this great institution,” said McInnis. “When I first came here, one of the things I was committed to was expanding our research. Today we’re going to talk about some of the work that we’re doing to enhance our research portfolio. As I speak with people in the Stony Brook community, I sense a greater degree of optimism of hope and a sense that exciting things are coming.”
Joining McInnis in the webinar were Paul Goldbart, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, Richard Reeder, vice president for research, and Alfredo Fontanini, professor of neurobiology and behavior, who was recently appointed as Stony Brook’s first vice provost for research and infrastructure.
McInnis began by clarifying the initiative, providing a bigger picture of what this investment means.
“We’re talking about all disciplines, including the humanities, the social sciences and the creative arts,” she said. “We’re talking about the English professor who’s writing a book on Indian captivity narratives; the historian who is writing about race and race relations between India and Africa; the soprano who is preparing for performance with one of the world’s great opera companies; and the economist who is working on the effects of COVID-19 through network simulation and big data.”
Goldbart echoed the importance of multidisciplinary collaboration.
“Having this full spectrum of research is one of the things that makes Stony Brook incredibly exciting,” he said. “We have ethicists and philosophers, microbiologists and ecologists, anthropologists, chemists, linguists, neuroscientists humanists and physician scientists all striving to understand the world more deeply and elevate the human spirit. It’s remarkable. We’ve had inspiring conversations with people in music and people in history and other disciplines, learning from each other about what draws them to their scholarship and research. It’s an example of our deep commitment to the full spectrum of research.”
Goldbart also announced that Stony Brook is moving ahead with faculty hiring, with a goal to hire more than 50 tenure and tenure track faculty this year and next year, hopefully by September 2022.
“As we engaged with faculty across the spectrum, we saw that there are critical roles to be played by people in the arts, people in the humanities, and people in social sciences as well as people in STEM fields,” Goldbart said. “This diversity is the heart of the Stony Brook future.”
Reeder discussed two important current pieces of legislation in Congress, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the reconciliation bill. “This legislation has provisions for tens of billions of dollars for new research and development,” he said, noting that agencies including the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy, NASA, and the Department of Defense would all see significant budget increases. “Some of the priority topics that have been highlighted, like climate and clean energy, quantum information, and health-related topics, are very important to us.”
Reeder also said the U.S. Innovation in Competition Act (USICA) has broad bipartisan support, and identifies 10 focus areas that need to have additional funding. “These 10 focus areas are what we really use to define our focus teams,” he said. “There is a pilot project sponsored by both the Provost’s Office and my office with the goal of constructing teams of subject matter experts that would be nimble and able to respond to funding opportunities as early as possible.“
Fontanini discussed the work of the Strategic Research Council, a committee he created that advocates for researchers. “It expresses the needs of the faculty and the research active faculty,” he said. “One of these needs was for a standing committee on campus that would advocate for research and research support in administration and identify challenges and opportunities and provide actionable advice.”
To this end, Fontanini, Goldbart and Reeder meet on a monthly basis.
“The overarching goal is to support research here at Stony Brook,” Fontanini said. “The more practical goal and ambition of ours is to increase health and research investment. But we need to connect our researchers and administration. We need to facilitate communication and putting a clear governance in place via the Strategic Resource Council will make everyone’s life much easier. We’re working hard on these challenges.”
McInnis pointed to the interdisciplinary nature of Stony Brook’s research and the need to bring disciplines together to tackle immediate real-world challenges like climate science, healthcare disparity, and injustice.
“These are vitally important conversations for us to be having right now,” she said. “What we’re talking about when we say we’re accelerating research is supporting our faculty across all of our disciplines to work together in tackling these far-reaching challenges.”
— Robert Emproto